Today, we’re sharing a few meal planning apps and our favorite time saving tips to make meal planning as quick, easy and (hopefully) painless as possible.
You know how some people have those, “If I won the lottery, I would….” kind of wish lists? Well, I have one too. The very first luxury thing I would do – hands down – would be to hire a cook. The second, to hire a driver.
In my head, I want to be one of those, “Nourishing my family with homemade meals makes me extremely happy,” types of people. But the truth is, I totally stink at it and I would rather clean the messiest room in the house than to have to cook a meal any day of the week.
As extreme as that sounds, I am getting a littlebetter at it now that I’ve had to make at least 3 meals a day nearly every day for months.
The one thing that has helped us stay on track with meal planning and grocery shopping (which I usually don’t mind toomuch) is to plan our meals by the month using these easy tips and tricks. On the last Sunday of the month, I usually sit down with our calendars, my favorite cookbooks, recipes I’ve saved from Pinterest and map out the month.
Before you get overwhelmed thinking, “What! An entire month!” let me just gently remind you, if you plan your meals once a month it means you’re only having to meal plan 12 times a year as opposed to 52 times a year if you do it each week. I mean, 12 times a year actually sounds doable now, right?
Here’s a look at how you can plan your meals by the month using these 6 simple steps…
Step #1– Look through your calendar and fill in the blanks/dates on your monthly meal planning list with all the activities you and/or your family will be celebrating for the month. For example, birthdays, anniversaries, sleepovers or fun food holidays like Fat Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day or Super Bowl Sunday. This will help you get an idea of which days will require a special menu.
Step #2– Assign each day of the week a different food category. For example:
Monday– Meatless * Tuesday– Ethnic * Wednesday– Salad * Thursday– Fish or Shrimp * Friday– Soup, Chowder, Chili or Pizza * Saturday– Dinner Out or Slow Cooker Meals * Sunday– Try Something New or host a Sunday Supper with your friends & family where everyone makes/brings a dish.
Step #3– Add tried and true recipes your family currently enjoys to the monthly meal plan. These will be recipes that are quick and easy to make or favorites your family already enjoys. I read somewhere that every cook should have at least 20 “go-to” recipes so use those if you have them.
Step #4– Fill in any empty dates with new recipes you’ve found via cookbooks, meal apps (see below), Pinterest, magazines, suggestions from your friends and coworkers, heirloom recipes, or meals you’ve been wanting to try. I know this step might be hard for those of us that are picky eaters or have picky eaters at home but it’s good for us try new experiences and break out of our comfort zone.
Step #5– Once you have all the days of the month filled out, make a grocery list based on the way you shop (weekly, biweekly or monthly). This is also a great time to consider what you’ll be having for breakfast each morning or the supplies you may need for packing lunches and snacks, so you can get everything down on the same list.
Step #6– Decide if you’ll shop yourself, utilize curbside service or have your groceries delivered. Check to see if retailers in your area offer these services or use companies like AmazonFresh, Instacart, Shipt (a Target company) and Walmart to help make your shopping experience more convenient. Some of these services will have additional charges such as a yearly subscription fee and a tip for your shopper/driver so keep that in mind when you’re trying to decide which service best fits your current needs and budget.
Finally, if you don’t have a lot of extra time to research recipes and plan a shopping list consider using one of these helpful meal planning apps…
Cost: Free, with optimal in-app purchases
About: Each recipe takes around 30 minutes and ideas are easily searched into broad categories from (classic, gluten-free, vegetarian, low carb). Recipes and grocery lists can be based on the number of meals specified per week and per person.
Cost: Each version iOS, Android, Windows and Mac sold separately; the iOS app is currently $4.99
About: This app helps you curate and organize your recipes, make meal plans, and create grocery lists. The bonus is that you can save recipes from anywhere on the web using Paprika’s built-in browser. Free cloud sync services allow you to use interactive recipes, grocery lists, meal planning ideas and tools to help you cook across all your devices.
Cost: Three different membership plans are offered beginning at $4/month, with a two-week free trial.
About: The concept behind this service is that it creates weekly dinner menus based on your local grocery store’s weekly sales cycle thus saving you time and money each week.
Cost: Plans begin around $8 a month, limited time free trial may also be available
About: This service provides unlimited meal plans with custom tailored recipes to suit your preferences including personal recipes you and your family already love. It also generates a shoppable grocery list which can be synced to your Instacart account.
In addition, you can always check out what’s on our menu each Thursday via our, From the Front Porch Posts. Here is an example of last week’s menu.
I completely understand how overwhelming it can be to try plan a week’s worth of menus much less a month’s worth of menus when you have a crazy busy family life. Believe me, I totally get it. That said, it’s almost equally as overwhelming trying to decide what you’re going to have for dinner every single night after a long day, you know?
And since we have to cook for our families on a regular basis all year anyway, we may as well make our recipe gathering, meal planning and grocery shopping as quick and painless as possible using these meal planning apps and time saving tips!
Do you have any meal planning tricks you love? We’d love to hear about them! I’ll see you guys back here tomorrow. We’re in Week 3 of our 52 Weeks to a Simplified & Organized Home Challenge and we’ve reorganized the pantry. Until next time, I’ll see you on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.